Maripau Paz, Inaugural Arthur Ashe Scholar

UCLA College senior Maripau Paz has been selected as the first ever recipient of the 2019-2020 Arthur Ashe Jr. Scholarship, established to recognize and support students who exemplify the attributes, values, commitment to service and pioneering spirit of the legendary Arthur Ashe ’66.

Since arriving at UCLA as a first-generation college student, Paz has committed herself to inspiring others on campus. Paz has worked in various leadership roles to aid student retention and enhance the undergraduate experience for her peers at UCLA, all while pursuing a double major in political sciences and global studies.

Paz spent three years as the head administrative clerk for New Student Programs in UCLA’s Academic Advancement Program, a federally funded diversity-outreach program that supports low-income students, students of color, first-generation students, and students with disabilities, by connecting them to the resources they need to succeed. In addition, she served for two years as a new student advisor for the incoming Freshman and Transfer Student class, providing academic counsel to more than 200 students and their families.

Paz also served as professional outreach director in the Student Alumni Association, where she helped prepare students for the world post-graduation by hosting workshops on resume building, applying for internships and interview skills. During her senior year, Paz is serving as executive director of the professional development committee on the board of directors for the Student Alumni Association.

On the academic front, Paz presented her research on immigration and public opinion at UCLA’s Undergraduate Research Week in May and is starting work on an honors senior thesis that will further expand on this topic. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a joint Law and Master’s degree in Public Policy and work on issues pertaining to human rights, refugees and immigrant communities.

Read more: https://www.college.ucla.edu/2019/08/23/arthur-ashes-most-impactful-serve-the-national-junior-tennis-league/

Black hole at the center of our galaxy appears to be getting hungrier

Rendering of a star called S0-2 orbiting the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. It did not fall in, but its close approach could be one reason for the black hole’s growing appetite. Photo credit: Nicolle Fuller/National Science Foundation

The enormous black hole at the center of our galaxy is having an unusually large meal of interstellar gas and dust, and researchers don’t yet understand why.

“We have never seen anything like this in the 24 years we have studied the supermassive black hole,” said Andrea Ghez, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and a co-senior author of the research. “It’s usually a pretty quiet, wimpy black hole on a diet. We don’t know what is driving this big feast.”

paper about the study, led by the UCLA Galactic Center Group, which Ghez heads, is published today in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The researchers analyzed more than 13,000 observations of the black hole from 133 nights since 2003. The images were gathered by the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. The team found that on May 13, the area just outside the black hole’s “point of no return” (so called because once matter enters, it can never escape) was twice as bright as the next-brightest observation.

They also observed large changes on two other nights this year; all three of those changes were “unprecedented,” Ghez said.

The brightness the scientists observed is caused by radiation from gas and dust falling into the black hole; the findings prompted them to ask whether this was an extraordinary singular event or a precursor to significantly increased activity.

“The big question is whether the black hole is entering a new phase — for example if the spigot has been turned up and the rate of gas falling down the black hole ‘drain’ has increased for an extended period — or whether we have just seen the fireworks from a few unusual blobs of gas falling in,” said Mark Morris, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and the paper’s co-senior author.

The team has continued to observe the area and will try to settle that question based on what they see from new images.

“We want to know how black holes grow and affect the evolution of galaxies and the universe,” said Ghez, UCLA’s Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics. “We want to know why the supermassive hole gets brighter and how it gets brighter.”

► UCLA astronomers discussed the project in a Keck Observatory video

The new findings are based on observations of the black hole — which is called Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* — during four nights in April and May at the Keck Observatory. The brightness surrounding the black hole always varies somewhat, but the scientists were stunned by the extreme variations in brightness during that timeframe, including their observations on May 13.

“The first image I saw that night, the black hole was so bright I initially mistook it for the star S0-2, because I had never seen Sagittarius A* that bright,” said UCLA research scientist Tuan Do, the study’s lead author. “But it quickly became clear the source had to be the black hole, which was really exciting.”

One hypothesis about the increased activity is that when a star called S0-2 made its closest approach to the black hole during the summer 2018, it launched a large quantity of gas that reached the black hole this year.

Another possibility involves a bizarre object known as G2, which is most likely a pair of binary stars, which made its closest approach to the black hole in 2014. It’s possible the black hole could have stripped off the outer layer of G2, Ghez said, which could help explain the increased brightness just outside the black hole.

Morris said another possibility is that the brightening corresponds to the demise of large asteroids that have been drawn in to the black hole.

No danger to Earth

The black hole is some 26,000 light-years away and poses no danger to our planet. Do said the radiation would have to be 10 billion times as bright as what the astronomers detected to affect life on Earth.

Astrophysical Journal Letters also published a second article by the researchers, describing speckle holography, the technique that enabled them to extract and use very faint information from 24 years of data they recorded from near the black hole.

Ghez’s research team reported July 25 in the journal Science the most comprehensive test of Einstein’s iconic general theory of relativity near the black hole. Their conclusion that Einstein’s theory passed the test and is correct, at least for now, was based on their study of S0-2 as it made a complete orbit around the black hole.

► Watch a four-minute film about Ghez’s research

Ghez’s team studies more than 3,000 stars that orbit the supermassive black hole. Since 2004, the scientists have used a powerful technology that Ghez helped pioneer, called adaptive optics, which corrects the distorting effects of the Earth’s atmosphere in real time. But speckle holography enabled the researchers to improve the data from the decade before adaptive optics came into play. Reanalyzing data from those years helped the team conclude that they had not seen that level of brightness near the black hole in 24 years.

“It was like doing LASIK surgery on our early images,” Ghez said. “We collected the data to answer one question and serendipitously unveiled other exciting scientific discoveries that we didn’t anticipate.”

Co-authors include Gunther Witzel, a former UCLA research scientist currently at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy; Mark Morris, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy; Eric Becklin, UCLA professor emeritus of physics and astronomy; Rainer Schoedel, a researcher at Spain’s Instituto de Astrofısica de Andalucıa; and UCLA graduate students Zhuo Chen and Abhimat Gautam.

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation, W.M. Keck Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, Lauren Leichtman and Arthur Levine, and Howard and Astrid Preston.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

What wolves’ teeth reveal about their lives

Biologist Blaire Van Valkenburgh has spent more than three decades studying the skulls of large carnivores. Here she displays a replica of a saber-toothed cat skull. At left are the skulls of a spotted hyena (in white) and a dire wolf (the black skull). Photo credit: Christelle Snow/UCLA.

UCLA evolutionary biologist Blaire Van Valkenburgh has spent more than three decades studying the skulls of many species of large carnivores — including wolves, lions and tigers —  that lived from 50,000 years ago to the present. She reports today in the journal eLife the answer to a puzzling question.

Essential to the survival of these carnivores is their teeth, which are used for securing their prey and chewing it, yet large numbers of these animals have broken teeth. Why is that, and what can we learn from it?

In the research, Van Valkenburgh reports a strong link between an increase in broken teeth and a decline in the amount of available food, as large carnivores work harder to catch dwindling numbers of prey, and eat more of it, down to the bones.

“Broken teeth cannot heal, so most of the time, carnivores are not going to chew on bones and risk breaking their teeth unless they have to,” said Van Valkenburgh, a UCLA distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, who holds the Donald R. Dickey Chair in Vertebrate Biology.

For the new research, Van Valkenburgh studied the skulls of gray wolves — 160 skulls of adult wolves housed in the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Montana; 64 adult wolf skulls from Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior that are housed at Michigan Technological University; and 94 skulls from Scandinavia, collected between 1998 and 2010, housed in the Swedish Royal Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. She compared these with the skulls of 223 wolves that died between 1874 and 1952, from Alaska, Texas, New Mexico, Idaho and Canada.

Yellowstone had no wolves, Van Valkenburgh said, between the 1920s and 1995, when 31 gray wolves were brought to the national park from British Columbia. About 100 wolves have lived in Yellowstone for more than a decade, she said.

In Yellowstone, more than 90% of the wolves’ prey are elk. The ratio of elk to wolves has declined sharply, from more than 600-to-1 when wolves were brought back to the national park to about 100-to-1 more recently.

In the first 10 years after the reintroduction, the wolves did not break their teeth much and did not eat the elk completely, Van Valkenburgh reports. In the following 10 years, as the number of elk declined, the wolves ate more of the elk’s body, and the number of broken teeth doubled, including the larger teeth wolves use when hunting and chewing.

The pattern was similar in the island park of Isle Royale. There, the wolves’ prey are primarily adult moose, but moose numbers are low and their large size makes them difficult to capture and kill. Isle Royale wolves had high frequencies of broken and heavily worn teeth, reflecting the fact that they consumed about 90% of the bodies of the moose they killed.

Scandinavian wolves presented a different story. The ratio of moose to wolves is nearly 500-to-1 in Scandinavia and only 55-to-1 in Isle Royale, and, consistent with Van Valkenburgh’s hypothesis, Scandinavian wolves consumed less of the moose they killed (about 70%) than Isle Royale wolves. Van Valkenburgh did not find many broken teeth among the Scandinavian wolves. “The wolves could find moose easily, not eat the bones, and move on,” she said.

Van Valkenburgh believes her findings apply beyond gray wolves, which are well-studied, to other large carnivores, such as lions, tigers and bears.

Extremely high rates of broken teeth have been recorded for large carnivores — such as lions, dire wolves and saber-toothed cats — from the Pleistocene epoch, dating back tens of thousands of years, compared with their modern counterparts, Van Valkenburgh said. Rates of broken teeth from animals at the La Brea Tar Pits were two to four times higher than in modern animals, she and colleagues reported in the journal Science in the 1990s.

“Our new study suggests that the cause of this tooth fracture may have been more intense competition for food in the past than in present large carnivore communities,” Van Valkenburgh said.

She and colleagues reported in 2015 that violent attacks by packs of some of the world’s largest carnivores — including lions much larger than those of today and saber-toothed cats — went a long way toward shaping ecosystems during the Pleistocene.

In a 2016 article in the journal BioScience, Van Valkenburgh and more than 40 other wildlife experts wrote that preventing the extinction of lions, tigers, wolves, bears, elephants and the world’s other largest mammals will require bold political action and financial commitments from nations worldwide.

Discussing the new study, she said, “We want to understand the factors that increase mortality in large carnivores that, in many cases, are near extinction. Getting good information on that is difficult. Studying tooth fracture is one way to do so, and can reveal changing levels of food stress in big carnivores.”

Co-authors are Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich, professors of forest resources and environmental science at Michigan Technological University; and Douglas Smith and Daniel Stahler, wildlife biologists with the National Park Service.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and National Park Service.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

UCLA historian Kelly Lytle Hernández awarded MacArthur Fellowship

Kelly Lytle Hernández, a 2019 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, is one of 14 UCLA faculty to be chosen for the honor. Photo credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

UCLA professor Kelly Lytle Hernández, an award-winning author and scholar of race, mass incarceration and immigration, was announced today as a recipient of a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Lytle Hernández, who is a professor of history and African American studies, is the director of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, which under her leadership has focused on supporting research into two critical themes in the modern black world — work and justice. The Bunche Center is home to Million Dollar Hoods, which maps the fiscal and human cost of mass incarceration in Los Angeles. Lytle Hernández is the director and principal investigator on the project.

“Lytle Hernández’s investigation of the intersecting histories of race, mass incarceration, immigration, and cross-border politics is deepening our understanding of how imprisonment has been used as a mechanism for social control in the United States,” the foundation said.

The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000, no-strings-attached award to people the foundation deems “extraordinarily talented and creative individuals.” Fellows are chosen based on three criteria: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of accomplishments, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work. Lytle Hernández is one of 26 individuals the foundation selected for fellowships in 2019.

“As a scholar, I both work deeply alone and deeply in community, but until very recently the scholarly communities I’ve worked in — immigration and the carceral state — have been fairly separate,” said Lytle Hernández, who holds the Thomas E. Lifka Chair in History at UCLA. “I hope my work has helped people understand immigration as another aspect of mass incarceration in the United States and that my award further helps people understand that these two regimes are intertwined. This award will help us continue this work across communities and shine a light on this kind of thinking that unites these two crises that others often see as distinct.”

Lytle Hernández, 45, received a her bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego in 1996 and earned her doctorate in 2002 from UCLA.

For her first book, “MIGRA! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol,” Lytle Hernández pored over historical records to illuminate the border patrol’s nearly exclusive focus on policing unauthorized immigration from Mexico.

In “City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles,” she began zeroing in on another dimension of race and law enforcement, specifically what forces shaped Los Angeles so that it came to operate the largest jail system in the United States.

“What I found in the archives is that since the very first days of U.S. rule in Los Angeles — the Tongva Basin — incarceration has persistently operated as a means of purging, removing, caging, containing, erasing, disappearing and otherwise eliminating indigenous communities and racially targeted populations,” Lytle Hernández said in an interview about the book.

The MacArthur Fellowship, which is commonly referred to as the “genius grant,” is according to the foundation, intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual and professional inclinations. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations.

Lytle Hernández joins 13 other UCLA faculty as MacArthur fellows, including mathematician Terence Tao, choreographer Kyle Abraham, director Peter Sellars, astrophysicist Andrea Ghez and historian of religion Gregory Schopen.

While unsure of her specific plans for the award, Lytle Hernández said that she will continue to expand the scope and scale of her social justice scholarship, including with partners outside of UCLA.

“I’d like to create a space for myself and others — especially community organizers and movement-driven scholars — to write,” she said, noting that these people’s calendars tend to be jammed by the “urgency of their work.” “I’d like to create space that allows myself and others to process the work that we’re doing and to share it.”

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

UCLA receives $20 million to establish UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute

Jennifer and Matthew C. Harris ‘84.

The Bedari Foundation, established by philanthropists Jennifer and Matthew C. Harris, has given $20 million to the UCLA College to establish the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute.

The institute, which is housed in the division of social sciences, will support world-class research on kindness, create opportunities to translate that research into real-world practices, and serve as a global platform to educate and communicate its findings. Among its principal goals are to empower citizens and inspire leaders to build more humane societies.

“Universities should always be places where we teach students to reach across lines of difference and treat one another with empathy and respect — even when we deeply disagree,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said. “The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute will bring the best thinking to this vital issue and, I think, will allow us to have a real social impact on future generations.”

The institute, which will begin operating immediately, will take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding kindness — through evolutionary, biological, psychological, economic, cultural and sociological perspectives. It will focus on research about the actions, thoughts, feelings and social institutions associated with kindness and will bring together researchers from across numerous disciplines at UCLA and at external organizations.

The inaugural director of the institute is Daniel Fessler, a UCLA anthropology professor whose research interests include exploring how witnessing acts of remarkable kindness can cause an uplifting emotional experience that in turn motivates the observer to be kind. Studies by Fessler and his colleagues have shed light on why some people are open to that type of “contagious kindness” experience.

The Bedari Foundation is a private family foundation whose aim is to enable significant cultural shifts in the fields of health and wellness, community displacement and environmental conservation.

“Our vision is that we will all live in a world where humanity discovers and practices the kindness that exists in all of us,” said Matthew Harris, the foundation’s co-founder and a 1984 UCLA graduate. “Much research is needed to understand why kindness can be so scarce in the modern world. As we seek at Bedari to bridge the divide between science and spirituality, through the establishment of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute we hope to educate and empower more and more people in the practice of kindness.”

Already, a range of researchers at UCLA are studying the types of questions that will be the basis of the institute’s work. For example, UCLA anthropologists are examining how kindness spreads from person to person and group to group. UCLA sociologists are analyzing how people who regularly act unkind might be encouraged to engage in kind acts instead, and UCLA psychologists are researching how kindness can improve people’s moods and reduce symptoms of depression. Others are pursuing research on changes in neurobiology and behaviors resulting from mindfulness, and how those changes can influence kindness and people’s mental, physical and social well-being.

“In the midst of current world politics, violence and strife, the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute seeks to be an antidote,” said Darnell Hunt, dean of the UCLA division of social sciences. “Rooted in serious academic work, the institute will partner and share its research on kindness broadly in accessible formats. The Bedari Foundation’s extraordinary gift is truly visionary and we are grateful for its support and leadership.”

The Kindness Institute will provide seed funding for research projects that examine the social and physical mechanics of kindness and how kindness might be harnessed to create more humane societies. It also will provide mindfulness awareness training to students, faculty and staff and in underserved Los Angeles communities, and host an annual conference at which presenters will examine new discoveries in kindness research, among other activities.

“The mission of the Kindness Institute perfectly aligns with that of the division of social sciences, where engaging the amazing diversity and social challenges shaping Los Angeles routinely inspires research that has the potential to change the world,” Hunt said.

The gift is part of the Centennial Campaign for UCLA, which is scheduled to conclude in December.

Minds Matter: Raising the Curtain on Depression and Anxiety

Photo of Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player Kevin Love and UCLA College’s Clinical Psychology expert Michelle Craske.

Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player Kevin Love and UCLA College’s Clinical Psychology expert Michelle Craske.

UCLA students, community members and supporters joined Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player Kevin Love and UCLA College’s Clinical Psychology expert Michelle Craske for a standing-room only hybrid class and public lecture on Monday, August 19, for “Minds Matter: Raising the Curtain on Depression and Anxiety,” a free hour-long discussion on the causes of depression and anxiety, public stigma, and potential advances for the future. The series was the first in an ongoing exploration of brain health that will continue with additional events focusing on bullying, aging well, and other topics.

Love, an NBA Champion and five-time NBA All-Star for the Cleveland Cavaliers, has publicly discussed his struggle with panic attacks and anxiety and his decision to seek therapy, and has become a leading voice in mental health advocacy and founded the Kevin Love Fund in 2018 with the mission of inspiring people to live their healthiest lives while providing the tools to achieve physical and emotional well-being.

“Mental health isn’t just an athlete thing, it’s an issue that affects everyone in some way. The more we can normalize the conversation around mental health, the more we can do to help those that are struggling,” said Love. “My goal in sharing my personal experience is to connect with others who are going through something and keep this dialogue top of mind.”

Michelle G. Craske is a UCLA Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Director of the Anxiety and Depression Research Center, and Associate Director of the Staglin Family Music Center for Behavioral and Brain Health. Craske has published extensively in the area of fear, anxiety and depression.

“We need to work together to bring anxiety and depression out of the dark. People who suffer will only seek help when they can do so without fear of shame. Event series such as ‘Minds Matter’ aim to shed a light on these critical issues, and to help make a positive breakthrough,” said Craske.

Craske also is Director of the Innovative Treatment Network within the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge, a campus-wide effort to cut the global burden of depression in half. The innovative treatment component, which Craske leads, seeks to develop novel and more effective treatments for depression and anxiety and increase the scalability and accessibility of existing evidence-based treatments.

The “Minds Matter” series leverages the strengths of UCLA College’s Psychology faculty as well as high-profile guests who provide specialized insight about the discussion topic. Upcoming sessions will include discussions on addiction, adolescent brain development and behavior, bullying, healthy aging, and thriving under stress. The “Minds Matter” series is made possible through the longstanding UCLA College and Geffen Playhouse partnership and the generous support of donors.

Check back for information on future “Minds Matter” events at  https://www.college.ucla.edu/minds-matter/.

Addressing Africa’s Pressing Challenges: Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation Gives $1 Million to UCLA’s Congo Basin Institute

The Congo Basin Institute creates a bridge between UCLA and Africa, which is expected to be home to 40% of the world’s population by the end of the century.

UCLA has received a $1 million donation from the Anthony & Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation to support UCLA’s Congo Basin Institute.

The funds will advance the institute’s core mission of finding sustainable solutions to food and water insecurity, climate change, biodiversity loss, public health concerns and emerging diseases.

“The Anthony & Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation’s generous gift will help establish UCLA as one of the world’s university leaders in developing solutions to some of Africa’s greatest challenges,” said Thomas Smith, co-director of the institute.  “It also will aid in leveraging efforts such as UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge on an international scale

Established in 2015 in Cameroon by UCLA and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, the Congo Basin Institute brings together faculty from the UCLA College and four professional schools, two UCLA research institutes and numerous academic departments, as well as leading thinkers from institutions in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa. Operating programs in five African countries, the institute creates a bridge between UCLA and Africa, which experts forecast will be home to 40% of the world’s population by the end of the century.

“Our foundation aims to enrich humanity not just for the present, but for generations to come,” said Tony Pritzker, the foundation’s president, and the chairman and CEO of Pritzker Private Capital. “By supporting UCLA’s Congo Basin Institute, we are investing in research that will help sustain the future of our planet.”

The gift furthers the foundation’s commitment to the Centennial Campaign for UCLA, which is scheduled to conclude in December 2019 during UCLA’s 100th anniversary year. Tony Pritzker is a co-chair of the campaign, and in 2018, the foundation gave $10 million to establish the UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families, a hub for research, prevention and intervention efforts that works to support families so that fewer children are at risk of entering our nation’s child welfare system.

Funds from the gift will be used in part to support UCLA undergraduates and graduate students studying and conducting research in Africa, where they will investigate a variety of critical issues that affect the continent and the planet as a whole.

The Pritzkers’ gift was matched by a $1 million grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund’s Research and Innovation Fund, which is directed by the government of the United Kingdom.

“As UCLA celebrates its centennial and the incredible work accomplished over the last century, this forward-thinking investment in the Congo Basin Institute very much positions UCLA to be a leader in the study of climate change and biodiversity in Africa,” said Scott Waugh, UCLA’s former executive vice chancellor and provost. “The institute gives UCLA a permanent presence in one of the planet’s most biodiverse areas, allowing researchers the opportunity to pioneer solutions to critical challenges that affect the future of humanity. The Pritzker Foundation’s gift extends this important work.”

The Congo Basin Institute’s work aligns on an international scale with the goals of UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, a university-wide research initiative to develop clean energy, local water solutions, and preserve biodiversity in order to transition the Los Angeles region to 100 percent renewable energy, 100 percent local water and enhanced ecosystem health by 2050.

The Congo Basin Institute is supported by UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. It is co-led by UCLA and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, with more than a dozen institutional partners from Africa and around the world, including UC Davis and UC Riverside.

For more than a decade, the Anthony & Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation has been investing in strengthening many of the unique institutions that define Los Angeles. The foundation aims to enrich the community not just for the present, but for generations to come, with a particular focus on medicine, higher education, the environment and the arts. In 2014, the foundation launched the Pritzker Foster Care Initiative to highlight its commitment to supporting transition-age foster youth and the families that care for them.

Photo of Dr. Anna Lee Fisher

Dr. Anna Lee Fisher, first mother in space, to deliver 2019 UCLA College centennial commencement address

Photo of Dr. Anna Lee Fisher

Dr. Anna Lee Fisher

Chemist, physician, astronaut and UCLA alumna will speak at Pauley Pavilion, June 14

­

Dr. Anna Lee Fisher, a chemist, physician and member of NASA’s first astronaut class to include women — as well as the first mother in space and a three-time UCLA graduate — will be the distinguished speaker for the UCLA College commencement on Friday, June 14.

Fisher will speak at both commencement ceremonies, which are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., in Pauley Pavilion, as the campus continues the celebration of its centennial year.

“Anna Fisher is an extraordinary illustration of what one person can achieve with determination, focus and hard work,” said Patricia Turner, senior dean of the UCLA College. “She is an example to all Bruins that one can truly reach beyond the stars. I know our graduates and their guests will be inspired by her wonderful journey as we celebrate all that UCLA has accomplished over the past 100 years and look forward to all that is yet to come.”

Fisher was selected by NASA in 1978 to be among the agency’s first female astronauts. In 1983, just two weeks before delivering her daughter, she was assigned to her flight on the space shuttle Discovery, and she embarked on mission STS-51A in 1984 when her daughter was just 14 months old — making her the first mother in space.

She has served NASA in several capacities throughout her career. In addition to serving on space missions, Fisher was the chief of the Astronaut Office’s Space Station branch, where she had a significant role in building the foundation for the International Space Station. She also worked in the mission control center as a lead communicator to the space station.

Before retiring in 2017, Fisher was a management astronaut working on display development for NASA’s pioneering Orion spacecraft, which will take astronauts farther into the solar system than they have ever gone.

Prior to orbiting the Earth, Fisher pushed into new frontiers at UCLA. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1971, an M.D. in 1976, and a master’s in chemistry 1987.

UCLA will hold two centennial commencements — the June 2019 ceremonies help kick off the campus’s 100th year, and the 2020 ceremonies wrap up the yearlong celebration. More information about the ceremonies are available at the UCLA College Commencement website.

Karida Brown and Robert Dallek

Two professors will be part of the Obama Presidency Oral History Project

Karida Brown and Robert Dallek

Karida Brown and Robert Dallek

Karida Brown, assistant professor of sociology, and Robert Dallek, professor emeritus of history, have been named to the advisory board of the Obama Presidency Oral History Project.

The Obama Foundation teamed with the Columbia Center for Oral History Research to produce the official oral history of Barack Obama’s presidency. The project will provide a comprehensive, enduring record of the decisions, actions and effects of his time in office.

Brown and Dallek join an advisory board made up of a distinguished list of presidential historians and authors; acclaimed journalists such as NPR’s Michele Norris and The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb; and other scholars in history, political science, sociology and public health from Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine. They will be responsible for shaping the project and uncovering narratives of how the Obama administration affected the lives of those inside and outside of Washington, D.C.

Starting this summer and during the next five years, the Obama Presidency Oral History Project will conduct interviews with some 400 people, including senior leaders and policy makers within the administration, as well as elected officials, campaign staff, journalists, and other key figures — Republican and Democrat — outside the White House.

The project also will incorporate interviews with individuals representing different dimensions of daily American life, whose perspectives enable the archive to weave recollections of administration officials with the stories and experiences of people who were affected by the administration’s decisions. This project will also examine Michelle Obama’s work and legacy as first lady.

This project builds on a longstanding tradition of presidential oral histories. For more than 50 years, oral history has been used to record the stories of people inside and outside the White House that shed light on a president’s time in office. This will be the second presidential oral history project conducted by Columbia, home to the country’s largest and oldest oral history archive, including the Eisenhower Administration Oral History project. Dwight Eisenhower was president of Columbia from 1948 to 1952. As part of this effort, Columbia and its academic partners will have full control on all editorial aspects of the project.

This article originally appeared on the UCLA Newsroom.

UCLA 100 Years Skyline

UCLA to mark 100th birthday with year of celebration

UCLA 100 Years Skyline

UCLA 100 Years Skyline

A yearlong series of programs and events will celebrate UCLA’s 100th birthday while illuminating the campus’s growth, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and impact as a leading public research university.

UCLA 100 festivities kick off on Saturday, May 18, with Alumni Day, featuring special speakers, campus tours and programs that mark UCLA’s first 100 years. On the same day, in the campus’s iconic Royce Hall, an all-star lineup of UCLA and guest speakers will ruminate on the subject of time for a special installment of the annual TedxUCLA. Immediately following the talks, the exterior of Royce Hall will become the backdrop for a dynamic light-and-sound show highlighting the people, breakthroughs and moments that defined UCLA’s first century. The display will be free and open to the public.

“UCLA has accomplished so much in its first century, fueled by a spirit of innovation and inclusion,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “This institution has proudly challenged, contributed and connected in ways that serve the world and particularly greater Los Angeles, the diverse and vibrant region that has helped define who we are. Yet our successes have not been the product of natural inevitability. They are the result of hard work, risk and vision. Our centennial, therefore, is a time for us not only to look back and celebrate, but also to look around and ahead to determine what still needs to be done to improve lives across our community and around the world, and how we can best achieve that.”

The seeds of today’s UCLA were planted in the 1881 creation of the downtown Los Angeles State Normal School, which later moved to Vermont Avenue. In 1919, the University of California Southern Branch opened on the Vermont Avenue campus. The University of California at Los Angeles name was officially adopted in 1927, and in 1929, instruction began on the present-day Westwood campus. From those beginnings, UCLA has, in just a century, become consistently ranked as one of the top public universities in the world, and the nation’s most applied-to university. UCLA faculty and researchers are routinely recognized for their leadership and breakthroughs in a stunning array of fields, ranging from health and technology to social sciences and the arts.

In a nod to the campus’s downtown roots, the centennial festivities will continue May 22 in front of Los Angeles City Hall, when the Los Angeles City Council will proclaim “UCLA Day,” on the eve of the anniversary of the university’s official 1919 founding. Free and open to the public, a celebration in Grand Park will follow, featuring food trucks, performances by the UCLA Marching Band and KCRW DJ Jason Bentley, and culminating in the lighting of City Hall in UCLA’s signature blue and gold colors. Other structures on campus and throughout the city — including the Grand Park fountains, Staples Center and the Los Angeles International Airport pylons — will also be illuminated in blue and gold.

Throughout the year, UCLA will celebrate its connection to the city at a dozen major Los Angeles events. Among them are the LA Pride Parade on June 9, and the CicLAvia open streets event on October 6, where UCLA faculty, staff and students will host art-making activities, mobile health clinics, performances, research demonstrations and more.

On August 31, in partnership with Levitt Pavilion, UCLA will present a free public concert in MacArthur Park by internationally renowned cumbia group La Sonora Dinamita. September 29 brings “UCLA Community Classroom: Exploring Today’s Big Ideas” at the Row complex in downtown Los Angeles. The day will include discussions on art, science, technology and more, alongside thought-provoking art exhibitions, live art creation and an interactive community mural.

Special centennial-themed moments will continue through the end of the 2019–20 academic year, including at the June 2019 and June 2020 commencement ceremonies, and at intercollegiate athletic events; at many of the events, a series of commemorative limited-edition centennial lapel pins will be available. And to tap into the campus’s rich history of achievement in sports, UCLA Athletics is asking fans to share their favorite Bruins memories on the Centennial Moments website.

Throughout the year, UCLA also will embark on four initiatives exclusive to the centennial year that are designed to expand public access to UCLA’s scholarly resources and build upon UCLA’s longstanding commitment of service to the community. Each will be a collaboration among multiple departments, centers, institutes and community groups.

“UCLA’s objective has always been to lead the way in advancing education, medicine, technology, the arts, public service and so much more,” said Carole Goldberg, chair of the centennial celebration steering committee and a UCLA distinguished research professor of law. “But of critical importance is the role we play, and will continue to play, in cultivating opportunity, inclusion and access for the communities we serve.” The four initiatives are:

  • Open UCLA, fall 2019. To erase barriers to the materials and scholarship that reside at UCLA Library, the campus will digitize more than 5,000 library resources and expand the library’s open collection. The initiative also will involve partnerships among UCLA, the Los Angeles Public Library and the Los Angeles County Public Library.
  • UCLA: Our Stories, Our Impact, fall 2019. A traveling multimedia exhibit will showcase the role of UCLA in advancing social justice and equality in the U.S.
  • UCLA Data for Democracy in L.A., fall 2019. UCLA will partner with K-12 teachers and local civic groups to examine data on inequality and opportunity, develop new curricula and improve civic discourse. The project will culminate in an on-campus Centennial Youth Summit that will bring together students and teachers from more than 100 classrooms across Los Angeles.
  • UCLA Collects: 100 Years of Sharing Knowledge, April 2020. The UCLA Fowler Museum, Hammer Museum at UCLA and other campus units will unveil an exhibition and series of activities and lectures drawn from the nearly 14 million art objects, texts, crafts and antiquities under UCLA’s care, with the goal of expanding access to UCLA’s diverse collections. Curators and faculty members will share stories related to the collections and tackle controversial topics on the issue of collecting itself.

As part of the celebration, the Los Angeles community will be invited to join students on campus for the second edition of the popular “10 Questions” lecture series. From October 1 through December 3, 2019, UCLA will host a series of 10 lectures that are free and open to the public — and that are a for-credit course for UCLA first-year students. The course’s centennial edition is based on a program begun in 2018 by the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. The program will bring together leading scholars from across campus for panel discussions of thought-provoking questions such as “What is justice?” or “What is creativity?”

A full list of confirmed events follows. More programs and events will be added throughout the 2019–20 academic year.

UCLA 100 is sponsored by University Credit Union.

UCLA 100 calendar at a glance

2019

May 18: Launch events

  • Alumni Day, including special speakers, centennial-themed programs and tours
  • TEDxUCLA at Royce Hall
  • “Lighting the Way” sound and visual show outside Royce Hall

May 20: UCLA leadership will visit Sacramento to receive a proclamation from the California State Legislature and State Senate

May 22: UCLA 100th Birthday Celebration at Grand Park with KCRW (details for media)

June 9: UCLA at LA Pride Parade

Summer: UCLA 100 international alumni celebrations

August 31:  Free concert by La Sonora Dinamita at Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park

Sept. 28: UCLA Volunteer Day. For the centennial edition of the annual event, first-year UCLA students and other Bruins will provide community service at 100 locations throughout the city and around the world

Sept. 29: “UCLA Community Classroom: Exploring Today’s Big Ideas” at Row, downtown Los Angeles

Oct. 1–Dec. 3: 10 Questions: Centennial Edition lecture series

Oct. 6: CicLAvia: Heart of L.A., Celebrating 100 Years of UCLA

Oct. 29: “Internet50” conference, commemorating UCLA’s role as the birthplace of the internet. Scheduled to speak are UCLA distinguished professor Leonard Kleinrock; Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and Alphabet Inc.; Judy Estrin, CEO of JLabs; and Kara Swisher, founder of Recode.

Nov. 3: “Exploring Your Universe” interactive science festival with hands-on demonstrations, free and open to the public

2020

Jan. 1: UCLA will be hosted on the Wescom Credit Union float at the Rose Parade

March 27–29: “LA Hacks x UCLA 100.” In partnership with LA Hacks, UCLA will invite students and tech-savvy members of the community to participate in a coding event in Pauley Pavilion with the goal of creating apps that serve the public good.